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A dancer is standing in an open space with large windows behind them. The artist is facing the right side and moving a long wooden dowel out in front of her.

Film still from the courage to… / துணிவுடன்…

the courage to... / துணிவுடன்…

Premiered December 19, 2021

“the courage to… / துணிவுடன்…” from Ankita Alemona and Subhashree Parthasarathy marks the first digital work from the TD Bridgemakers Project initiative at Toronto Dance Theatre. This film will remain online for the remainder of the initiative, until May 2022.

This film is free for the community thanks to the generous support from TD Canada Trust’s The Ready Commitment program, and the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Now Initiative.

Artist Statement

“the courage to…  / துணிவுடன்…” is a short meditative film taking audiences on a journey of creative courage.

The piece came about as a result of mutual sharing about our process training in Kalaripayattu, an ancient form of martial arts from Kerala, India. We came to recognize the courage, discipline and resilience it has taken for us to receive the practice of Kalaripayattu and evolve it through our bodies. This led us to explore and unravel what it means to have courage, and the various forms it takes, acknowledging how we endure life’s battles and the beauty of the human spirit to be alive and push through testing times.

In this piece, we have re-interpreted the visual styles of Theyyam and Pulikkali, two folk art forms from Kerala, as contemporary tools for storytelling.

Theyyam, a vibrant ancient ritual form of dance worship, tells stories of local heroes as deities, bringing to life historical documentation of society. This form subverts the caste hierarchy,  even as it exists within the limitations of the caste system. Members of the higher castes bow down to the lower castes, while the latter perform the role of the deities.

Pulikkali, the tiger dance festival, is a recreational folk art form celebrating bravery and the fighting spirit in us, where performers paint their bodies like tigers, in bright hues of orange, red and yellow. This riot of colours inter-played with the tenuous relationship between hunter and tiger is traditionally performed by men during Onam celebrations.

Drawing inspiration from these forms, whilst engaging with the fact that they are practiced with such strong social structures of caste and gender, “the courage to…  / துணிவுடன்…” is a depiction of visions and perceptions, irrespective of geography, constantly evolving from one generation after another.

This film was created as a distance project and is a collaboration between a dynamic team of 9 South Asian artists from Canada and India. Moving forward –  as performing artists, we wish to use this piece as a tool to support us in developing a live performance. We dedicate this piece to all nurturers, for holding space in spite of challenges, for a hopeful future.

– Ankita Alemona and Subhashree Parthasarathy

Production Credits

concept, direction, choreography & performance by: 

ankita alemona & subhashree parthasarathy

team of creative collaborators:
— canada: 
director of photography: ash tailor-jones
gaffer: bob gundu
visual design and body art by: hemangi shroff
film editors: ash tailor-jones & ankita alemona
colourist: ash tailor-jones
space provided by: mudra school of dance

— india:
director of photography: naveed mulki
visual design and body art by: harshvardhan kadam
music by: vedanth bharadwaj, subhashree parthasarathy and live recording from tantrosav 2021
yogeeshananda peetham; percussions lead by kalamandalam rajeev, prakash sathiya, kalanilayam unnikrishnan
space provided by: kalarigram
title animation: madrasmoney
tamil translation: deepika arun

creative producers: 
nautanki creations & subhashree parthasarathy

commissioned by: toronto dance theatre – td bridgemakers project
artistic director: andrew tay
digital dramaturge & mentor: francesca chudnoff
managing director: jessica whitford
communications manager: emma joy

made possible with support from:
canada arts council
td canada trust

special thank-you to:
lakshman gurukkul
shimi vayath
shatrugnan gurukkul
raji shartugnan
radhika gurukkul
dr. lal
kalarigram family
hindustan kalari sangam family
aaloka mehndiratta
sooraj nambiar
nimmy raphael
sajith puliyoli
nikhil varagiri
vishnu kadavath
narayanan payyoli
pooja kulkarni
nidhi baadkar
isha mahajan
rishav raj mahajan
baby kiaan mahajan
amrita kumar-ratta
sehdev kumar
dukenson bigot
simon paluck
swati prasad
callahan connor
and our families

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